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Tips for Expats Driving in Bangkok

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Bangkok.
Tips for Expats Driving in Bangkok

1. Traffic Conditions

Driving in Bangkok can be quite challenging due to the heavy traffic, especially during peak hours. The city is notorious for its traffic jams, so patience is key. Also, the driving style in Bangkok can be quite aggressive and unpredictable, so it’s important to stay alert at all times.

2. Car Recommendation

Smaller cars or motorcycles are recommended for driving in Bangkok due to the heavy traffic and narrow lanes. However, if you’re not comfortable with driving a motorcycle, a compact car would be a good choice. It’s also worth considering a car with an automatic transmission, as it can make driving in heavy traffic less stressful.

3. Parking

Finding parking in Bangkok can be difficult, especially in busy areas. Most shopping malls and hotels offer parking, but it can be quite expensive. Street parking is also available, but it’s often limited and can be risky due to the chaotic traffic.

4. Driving License

Foreigners can drive in Thailand with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to 6 months. After that, you will need to obtain a Thai driving license. To get a Thai driving license, you will need to pass a written test and a driving test. You will also need to provide a medical certificate and proof of residence. It’s recommended to hire a translator or take a Thai friend with you when you go to the Department of Land Transport, as the process can be quite complicated and most of the staff may not speak English.

5. Road Rules

Thailand drives on the left-hand side of the road, which can be confusing for those used to driving on the right. Also, it’s important to note that the use of seat belts is mandatory and the use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited unless using a hands-free device. Drinking and driving is also strictly prohibited and heavily penalized.

6. Navigation

It’s highly recommended to use a GPS or a navigation app like Google Maps when driving in Bangkok. The city’s road network can be quite complex and confusing, especially for newcomers. Also, many street signs are in Thai, so a navigation app can be very helpful.

7. Insurance

Make sure to have a comprehensive car insurance policy when driving in Bangkok. Accidents are quite common due to the heavy traffic and aggressive driving style, so it’s important to be covered.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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